Leaders: Born or Made? Debunking the Leadership Myth

I watched the movie Gattaca, which is an interesting film about genetics that can tell what kind of person someone will be. If you don’t have the right genetics, then your life is limited. The main plot of the film is about one man who decides to see whether he can beat this fate by pretending to be someone he is not. As I watched the film, it made me think about the question: are leaders born or made?

I have often wondered about this question and where it came from.

It’s strange that we never ask this question as frequently in other areas of life, such as sports or music, where the thought that our ability is predetermined by our genetics. For sure, we talk about natural talent, but we never ask the question: are musicians born or made as frequently as we do in leadership?

Why not? It’s just as likely that if genetics can determine leadership, it can determine other areas of life too.

This makes me ask myself why we question leadership so much more than any other area.

Maybe it’s because of the power that comes with leadership. If you look back through history, we have always had a class system that included an elite ruling class.

In Rome, it was practically impossible to become a leader unless you were born into the right family. It was always the firstborn son who would follow his father to become king. There was never any testing done to see which son or daughter was best suited to the role; it was always the firstborn.

From this perspective, leaders were born, not made, but this was by design, it allowed the elite ruling class to remain elite and remain in power.

Maybe this is where the question comes from, and it’s more about protecting the position of those in charge than it is about ensuring that we have the best leaders.

I strongly believe that leaders are made, not born.

Some of our natural abilities will indeed help, but just as in sports or music, where natural talent is a big help, it isn’t a limiting factor or a deciding factor.

In my opinion, leadership is a skill, and skills can be learned, and with sufficient practice, we can become experts.

So if someone tells you that leaders are born, not made, ask yourself why they are asking this question—what’s their motive?

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